There’s a shift happening in the meat case in 2016 as Americans are choosing more beef. According to the USDA, Americans will consume 54.3 lbs. of beef in 2016, up a half pound from the previous year. This is the first uptick in beef consumption since 2006.
What’s leading to this change of heart about beef? With more beef cattle numbers in the U.S. and declining beef prices, the nation’s beef supply is more abundant and at a more affordable price point that consumers can appreciate.
Chris Himmel, owner of Grill 23 & Bar in Boston, told Eater in a recent interview, “While our beef vs. non-beef entree sales have historically been steady at 70% beef, 30% non-beef, we've definitely seen it skew more in favor of beef in recent years as guests discover alternative cuts such as skirt steak, hangar steak, bavette steak, and others that, at lower price points compared to more luxurious cuts such as sirloin, filet or ribeye, make it much more approachable to satisfy their craving for a flavorful steak.”
READ: “Red meat consumption rises as beef prices drop in the U.S.” by Dana Hatic for Eater
Bloomberg Business reports that along with cheaper prices, restaurants are offering new incentives and fun menu items to spur additional beef sales.
Leslie Patton for Bloomberg Business writes, “Restaurant chains are trying to shift their preferences, using the cheaper prices to promote special menu items. Some Texas Roadhouse Inc. locations are advertising a Wild West Wednesdays special with an 8-ounce sirloin steak and two side dishes for $9.99. Wendy’s is selling more beef after starting a four-for-$4 promotion, which includes a cheeseburger, in October. It also has revamped its Dave’s hamburgers with a new bakery-style bun and bolder-flavored mayo. Chili’s is offering less-expensive beef in its new line of steaks (such as a citrus-chili avocado sirloin), which are part of its 2-for-$20 dinners.”
Just in time for grilling season, Patton explains the drop in beef prices, “At the start of 2014, U.S. cattle supplies were the lowest in more than six decades after years of drought in the South and Southwest. The shortage sent beef prices surging to records. Since then, ranchers have been able to raise more cattle, and the latest USDA numbers show herds at a five-year high. That’s helping to drive prices down. In February, a pound of uncooked ground beef retailed for $4.38, about 7% below a year ago, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
READ: “Red meat, it’s what’s for dinner again” by Leslie Patton for Bloomberg Business
This drop in prices might not seem like news worth celebrating for beef producers, but it gives a chance for consumers to get a taste for beef once again after opting for more affordable protein options in the last couple of years. This might be a good opportunity for the industry to capitalize on these reduced prices and work to boost beef demand through increased summer promotions and education. The playing field is evening out, and I have no doubt that beef will soon be king once again over pork and chicken.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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